With buzz about the troubled Broadway production Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark reaching a fever pitch online, a few news outlets have decided to publish unofficial early reviews of the show more than a month before its current slated opening on Feb. 7. Breaking a longstanding tradition of withholding judgment until opening night, the critics for Bloomberg news service and Newsday have both posted quasi-critiques of the show — and neither paints a flattering picture.

Jeremy Gerard of Bloomsberg (who paid $292.50 for an orchestra seat) calls the musical “an unfocused hodge-podge of story-telling, myth-making and spectacle that comes up short in every department.” He also blasts the “incoherently executed” character Arachne, a new villain invented by director Julie Taymor. (Arachne had been played by actress Natalie Mendoza, who is reportedly leaving the production for unspecified reasons after suffering a concussion in a backstage accident during a performance on Nov. 28.) As for the score by U2’s Bono and The Edge, Gerard says it is “sorely lacking” in good songs. Meanwhile, Newsday‘s Linda Winer praises Taymor’s dramatic staging and scenery, calling the aerial stunts “exciting and scary, in a circus way.” But she critiques the show’s “weak” second act and quotes a theatergoer who says the show’s score was its weakest element.

Traditionally, Broadway shows hold a few weeks of preview performances before allowing critics in just before an official opening night, giving show creators a brief window to make last-minute tweaks. But Spider-Man‘s high media profile, accident-plagued production, and repeated delays (its first preview was Nov. 28) have made critics antsy to weigh in on the spectacle. Still, not everyone is jumping in just yet: Most major news outlets — including Entertainment Weekly — are still withholding reviews until the show finishes making major adjustments. “It’s clear that the producers really are making significant changes and a review that’s out of date when the show opens isn’t all that useful,” explained New York Times Culture editor Jonathan Landman in an interview on the Times‘ Arts Beat blog. “So we’ll wait, but not forever.”

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